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Wednesday 8th November 1961
European Cup Winners Cup - Second Round Second Leg
FK Vardar 2 (1) Dunfermline Athletic 0 (0) (Aggregate: 2- 5)
The team left for Yugoslavia immediately after their game against Stirling Albion at Annfield on 4th November. From Edinburgh the team flew south to London, where they stayed overnight. The next morning they flew by chartered aircraft to Belgrade (with a fuel stop in Zurich), before flying the final leg south to Skopje. There was much relief that the initial plan of a seven hour train journey from Belgrade had been replaced by a 90 minute flight to Skopje. As Skopje boasted only a grass airstrip, on which larger aircraft could not land, Yugoslav Air Transport provided two Vikings for the Athletic party of 20. Having left Stirling early on Saturday evening, the Pars arrived at their destination, at 4.30pm on Monday evening.
Since the first leg, the Pars had played two league games, against Celtic at home, and Stirling Albion away. Despite a Tommy McDonald goal, Dunfermline lost out 2-1 to Celtic, but against Stirling a 3-2 victory was recorded. Charlie Dickson, and two goals from Alex Smith secured the points. However, the win made little difference to the Pars league position, and they remained in 14th place.
In contrast to the first game at East End Park, the return leg was dominated by the Yugoslavs. Taking the initiative right from the kick-off they pinned the Athletic back in their own half for most of the game. Indeed had centre forward Zelenikia, deputising for the injured Donceski, made more of the chances that came his way, the Pars could have found their comfortable aggregate lead considerably reduced.
However, throughout the game the Athletic defence stood firm, and Mailer, Miller and goalkeeper Connachan were in outstanding form. With the pitch in perfect condition, Vardar took the lead in just 11 minutes. Inside left Sulinceski hit a hard shot from the right, which Connachan failed to hold. Thereafter Vardar bombarded the Pars goal, but were thwarted, either by defenders crowding the penalty area, or Connachan making some superb saves.
The athletic continued to hold out until the 78th minute, when Vardar grabbed a second goal. Awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area, Zelenikia shot beat the wall, but hit the bar, from where it rebounded to Jakimovski, who netted.
In the closing minutes, Dunfermline had an excellent chance to reduce the leeway, but Smith’s shot, with only the keeper to beat, narrowly went wide from 15 yards out.
Despite defeat on the day, the five goal margin from the first leg was more than enough to see the Pars through to the Quarter Final of the European Cup Winners Cup. As the next round was not due to be be played until February, their opponents would not be known until mid December, when the draw would be made by UEFA in Zurich.
FK Vardar: Ferkovski, Bosalevski, Andinsouv, Dacevski, Bozinovski, Popovski, Sulinceski, Zelenikia, Lakie, Fulincevski, Jakimovski.
Dunfermline: Connachan, Fraser, Cunningham, Miller, Williamson, Mailer, McDonald, Peebles, Dickson, Smith, Melrose.
Referee: A Romenov (Bulgaria)
Despite winning the tie by a comfortable margin, the Athletic management and players were far from happy at the refereeing of the game. Pars chairman David Thomson told the Dunfermline Press:
"Everyone of our players was in a complete state of nerves, because they had been told that, if they dared to speak to the referee, they would be ordered off immediately. Every time our players challenged a Vardar player for possession of the ball, a foul was given, accompanied by a warning. If they shouted to their own colleagues, the game was stopped and the referee waved his hand towards the pavilion."
"Our team showed admirable restraint. There were so many unjustifiable decisions against them that they could not play well. When the first goal was awarded, the ball had been a yard over the bye-line and the referee just ignored the signals of the linesman."
"The referee lives only 80 miles away from Skopje and he played football in Skopje regularly. In fact he is so popular that he is known as the ‘lion of Skopje’. As a football enthusiast and club official over a long period of years, I have had some experience of continental refereeing, but I have never seen anything approaching this standard. We shall certainly be sending a strong protest through the SFA and questioning the suitability of this referee for this particular match".
In the book ‘Black and White Magic’ George Miller described the Vardar tie as follows:
"This match in Yugoslavia was the most frightening of my career. All the players were glad to get off the park. Imagine the scene, there was a moat all around the field with barbed wire holding back a wild crowd, police moved around the pitch with Tommy guns on their hips and during the game all sorts of foul play was going unnoticed. I remember Cammie Fraser having his ears pulled and players being spat and punched at. There was little doubt that the referee had been got at as their opening goal confirmed; their centre forward back heeled the ball back into play from about a yard and a half over the bye line, and as our defence had all stopped the Bulgarian referee blew for a goal after a Vardar man had put the ball into the net. Almost every Dunfermline tackle was penalised and even heading the ball risked a free kick against. Anything could have happened and we were all pleased to hear the final whistle. I’ll never forget Vardar!"
Off the field things were a little more cordial! Vardar arranged a full banquet at which gifts were exchanged, including a present for provost Jean Mackie. The hotel food was also changed to suit the more conservative tastes f the Scottish visitors, who found the heavily spiced local food not to their taste. Bacon and eggs with tea were introduced to the breakfast menu.
Vardar also arranged tours of museums, art galleries, churches and historic buildings, as well as laying on a film show for their visitors.
At the club’s AGM in November, chairman David Thomson reported that after two rounds, the Athletics’ European adventure was running at a loss of around Ł1,000. He expressed disappointment at the attendances the games had produced so far, and warned that "if local enthusiasts wanted continental glamour games, they must turn out and be prepared to pay a bit more".